It all started when the United States entered World War II to reinforce the Allied team, made up of the United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union; against the Axis, formed by Germany, Italy and Japan.
In the mid-1940s, the US Army asked 135 manufacturers to report to develop an unprecedented military vehicle. Light, agile, capable of carrying four soldiers and armaments, versatile for countless conversions (ambulance, for example) and with four-wheel drive, it would replace motorcycles and horses.
Certain requirements established by the Army were unreal, such as the maximum weight of 454 kilos and the deadline of 49 days to build a prototype and another 70 test vehicles in 75 days. Almost nobody responded to the “invitation”, except Bantam and Willys-Overland – and later Ford.
At the end of the day, the urgency to put the utility in combat relaxed some demands, the car ended up getting bigger and the maximum weight allowed went up to 986 kg. 1,500 vehicles were ordered from each of the three manufacturers, which would be tested in real life: the one from Bantam was the most economical, the one from Willys – named Military A, successor to the two assembled units of the Quad prototype – the most powerful and the one from Ford the easiest to drive.
It turns out that three different jeeps would demand three supplies of parts, three teams of engineers for repairs, three times more this and that. It was then decided to standardize the vehicle, which was basically a combination of the best solutions from the three manufacturers. In mid-1941, Willys MB (successor to MA) began to be manufactured. At the end of that year, Ford had been called on to increase production with its GPW.
But all were treated by “jeep”, whose meaning admits two versions. One explains that the name comes from GP, short for “general purpose”, summarizing the idea of a vehicle with different purposes. The other refers to “Eugene, the Jeep”, the one in Popeye’s drawing, which had the power to magically go anywhere, which symbolized the military vehicle’s intentions. Jeep would become a registered trademark by Willys-Overland only in 1950, after a long legal dispute with the nanant Bantam.
By the end of the fight, Willys had produced 283,000 copies and Ford, 237,000. Bantam was responsible for making carts, towed by jeeps.
The Quad prototype can be considered the genesis of the brand. But the Willys MB is the car that has conveyed the concept of a compact trailblazing car around the world. He is had with one of the heroes of the War: Dwight D. Eisenhower, general of the American Army during the combat and later president of the USA (1953 – 1961), listed the vehicle as one of the components that guaranteed the victory of the Allied Forces.
In a 1943 article, war correspondent Ernie Pyle wrote: “I don’t think we could continue the war without the jeep. It does everything. It goes everywhere. It is faithful like a dog, strong as a mule and agile as a goat. It constantly carries twice what it was designed for and still works. ”
Brandt Rosenbusch is a Jeep historian and summarized the size of the Willys MB in this column. “I believe that someone would have invented something at least similar, but at that moment the world needed something that it had not seen before. Many minds began to create it with a purpose: to win a war. And MB left such a strong mark on the Forces Armed and in the world that the government wished it in civilian hands as soon as possible “, he evaluates.
And Willys-Overland started designing this civilian version as early as 1943, having been granted production permission on July 17, 1945, almost a month before the official end of the war. “The CJ-2A was used for an incredible variety of jobs: in agriculture, as a delivery vehicle and even forest service. It met all needs. Willys even marketed it as” Universal “, because it was very versatile” , explains Rosenbusch.
It was therefore the first mass-produced four-wheel drive vehicle available to the public. Before that, low-volume trucks or military vehicles were the only 4×4.
Drummer of Os Paralamas do Sucesso, João Barone is a reference not only when it comes to music, but also military vehicles. “The Jeep is a kind of Colombo egg: someone discovered that a 4×4 vehicle is a stick for the whole project. Regardless of the comfort, it goes anywhere. In Brazil, where it still has a place without a right road, it has adapted very well , especially in rural areas. And, in addition to the Beetle, many people learned to drive in a jeep “, he explained to me once.
Around here, it started to be assembled in 1954 in São Bernardo do Campo (SP) by Willys-Overland do Brasil, started to be produced in 1957 and continued until 1983, when Ford – which bought the countrywoman in 1967 – discontinued it.
The CJ (short for Civilian Jeep, or civilian jeep) was also the first to display the front grille with seven slits (two less than the MB), a trademark of Jeep vehicles. In 1986, with more than 1.5 million units manufactured, the CJ paves the way for the Wrangler.
Soon Willys bet that there would be strong demand for variants of those SUVs and in July 1946 launched what would be the benchmark for the next SUVs. If before the war similar models had part of the wooden body, this was all steel – immune to the weather, peeling and creaking were advantages touted at the time, as was the hatch on the rear door.
Able to take seven occupants, it gained four-wheel drive in 1949. Considering the years of production of Rural – its Brazilian version – it was 35 years in production.
The Jeep Wagoneer opened the road for luxury SUVs in 1966, but it was the Cherokee that paved, illuminated and signaled the way from 1974. It became a kind of Rocky Balboa in the automotive universe: it was once unbeatable, it inspired many people to to venture into the sport and today is an idol of the past – but that everyone respects and venerates.
And to think that it started out as a two-door SUV in the first generation – just as a rejuvenated and sporty version of the Wagoneer. In 1994, the second generation appeared, which introduced the Cherokee to the Brazilian market, iconic with its boxy style.
At the 1992 Detroit Motor Show, the third generation performed as they passed through the window of the convention center. Maybe a little over the top, but the new Cherokee ended up making all the fuss about the SUV awards of the year that it had snapped up over the course of the year.
The fourth phase, in 2004, did not have the brightness of its predecessors, but it had its appeals there, such as the version SRT8 and its 6.1 V8 HEMI, 420 hp. Such a legacy of sportiness (or was it insanity?) Was continued by the fifth generation Cherokee Trackhawk – who has just passed the baton to the sixth incarnation, the first with three rows of seating.
CJ’s heritage is not just visual. Since 1986 until today, the Wrangler carries the concepts of the first civilian Jeep, such as bravery, versatility and the certainty of a journey that will be accomplished. However, technically, there is a great distance between them, being the Wrangler more comfortable and, equipped and urban.
The YJ generation is already a classic that is beginning to emerge – although its rectangular headlights did not please the purists. In the TJ phase, which debuted in 1997, the model was consecrated 4×4 of the year, not because it rescued the CJ style, but because of the on-road resourcefulness combined with the off-road capability.
The JK version expanded the possibilities of a body, even offering a model and four doors – and even the roof could lose, depending on the adventure. The current phase, JL, maintained the brucutu style, but it is the most docile of the Wranglers. And recently it got an electric version.
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